Coronavirus (COVID-19)

Latest information and advice for small businesses.

With the situation changing at an alarming rate it can be difficult for businesses to keep up-to-date with the latest advice, developments and support that is available. We have created this page which we will be updating on a regular basis to try and keep you informed through this national crisis.

Below is a summary of the support that is currently available to businesses and how you can access it. You can find additional information on the website.

Kickstart Scheme & Apprenticeships

Kickstart Scheme

Fully funded 6 month work placements for those aged 16 to 24 who are on Universal Credit and are deemed to be at risk of long-term unemployment.

Any business in Great Britain can apply. Funding available for each job will cover 100% of the relevant National Minimum Wage for 25 hours a week, plus the associated employer National Insurance contributions and employer minimum automatic enrolment contributions.

Employers may top wages up if they wish but are under no obligation to do so. There is no limit on the amount of placements each business can accept.

Trainees & Apprenticeships

The government will pay £1,000 for each new trainee aged 16 to 24 that an employer takes on to provide high quality training and work experience.

In addition, the government will introduce a new payment of £2,000 to employers in England for each new apprentice they hire aged under 25, and a £1,500 payment for each new apprentice they hire aged 25 and over, from 1st August 2020 to 31st January 2021.

These payments will be in addition to the existing £1,000 payment the government already provides for new 16-18 year-old apprentices.


Hospitality & Tourism Support

Kickstart Tourism Package

The £10 million Kick-starting Tourism Package, will give small businesses in tourist destinations grants of up to £5,000 to help them adapt their businesses following the coronavirus pandemic.

Businesses can use the funding to pay for specialist professional advice such as human resources, legal or financial expertise, to adopt new technology and online systems or to purchase new equipment. 100% of the money will come from government with no obligation for businesses to contribute financially.

VAT Cuts

There will be a temporary VAT cut for food and non-alcoholic drinks from 15 July 2020 to 12 January 2021 to support businesses and jobs in the hospitality sector.

VAT will be reduced to 5% and will apply to supplies of food and non-alcoholic drinks from restaurants, pubs, bars, cafés and similar premises across the UK.

There will also be a temporary VAT cut for accommodation and attractions – From 15 July 2020 to 12 January 2021, to support businesses and jobs.

The VAT reduction to 5% will apply to accommodation bookings and admission to attractions across the UK.

Further guidance on the scope of this relief will be published by HMRC shortly.

Eat Out to Help Out Scheme

The government has introduced the Eat Out to Help Out scheme to encourage people to return to eating out.

This will entitle every diner to a 50% discount of up to £10 per head on their meal, at any participating restaurant, café, pub or other eligible food service establishment.

The discount can be used unlimited times and will be valid Monday to Wednesday on any eat-in meal (including on non-alcoholic drinks) for the entire month of August 2020 across the UK.

Participating establishments will be fully reimbursed for the 50% discount. Businesses can register from 13th July 2020 and the registration will close on 31st August 2020.

You will not be able to offer discounts until 3rd August 2020. You’ll be registered instantly and will receive a registration reference number – you’ll need this when you claim the reimbursement.

For each day you’re using the scheme, you must keep records of the:

  • total number of people who have used the scheme in your establishment
  • total value of transactions under the scheme
  • total amount of discounts you’ve given

If you are using the scheme for more than one establishment, you must keep these records for each.

You can find out more and will be able to register from 13th July 2020 by following this link to the Eat Out to Help Out Scheme page.


Small Business Grant Scheme

What is it?

The government will provide a one-off grant of £10,000 to eligible businesses to help meet their ongoing business costs.

Who is it for?

All small businesses that receive small business rate relief or rural rate relief.

How do I apply?

There is nothing you need to do. Your local authority will be writing to you if you are eligible for this grant.

Additional Information

There is nothing you need to do. Your local authority will be writing to you if you are eligible for this grant.


Retail and Hospitality Grant Scheme

What is it?

The Retail and Hospitality Grant Scheme provides businesses in the retail, hospitality and leisure sectors with a cash grant of up to £25,000 per property.

Who is it for?

Retail, hospitality and leisure businesses such as:

  • shops, restaurants, cafes, drinking establishments, cinemas and live music venues.
  • hotels, guest and boarding premises and self-catering accommodation.

How do I apply?

There is nothing you need to do. Your local authority will be writing to you if you are eligible for this grant.

Additional Information

Please be aware that there have been reports of scammers posing as the council contacting you about grant funding and asking for your bank details. Local authorities will not call, you will receive a letter from them with details.

Also, letters will likely be sent to business premises, so you may have to check your place of work for the letter.


Discretionary Business Grant Scheme

What is it?

Local authorities can allocate grant funding to small or micro businesses who have been adversely affected by the Covid-19 outbreak. Grants will be awarded at five fixed levels: £1,000; £2,500; £5,000; £10,000; and £25,000.

There is a £5,000 limit for bed & breakfast businesses and a £2,500 limit for market traders.

Who is it for?

Small or micro businesses who have relatively high, ongoing fixed property costs and can demonstrate a significant fall in income due to the Covid-19 crisis.

Businesses are not eligible for the Discretionary Grant Scheme if they are eligible for any of the following:

  • Small Business Grant Fund
  • Retail, Hospitality & Leisure Fund
  • Fisheries Response Fund
  • Domestic Seafood Supply Scheme
  • Zoos Support Fund
  • Dairy Hardship Fund.

How do I apply?

The grants are being administered through the local authorities so you will need to contact your council in order to apply for a grant under this scheme.

Follow the links below for details to apply through your local authority:

Additional Information

The local authorities may have slightly different timings for submitting applications and making grant payments so please check with your council for the latest information.


Self-Employed Income Support Scheme

What is it?

HMRC will pay 80% of self-employed people’s average monthly profits over a 3 month period (March, April and May) up to a maximum of £2,500 per month or £7,500 in total. This is paid in a lump sum payment. Applications for the first grant will need to be made by 13th July.

The scheme has been extended for another 3 month period from 1st June to 31st August though will be capped at £2,190 per month or £6,570 in total. Applications for this second grant will open in August and again will be paid in a lump sum.

Who is it for?

Anyone who makes over 50% of their earnings through self-employment, with average profits of £50,000 or less. You must also have a self-assessment tax return for 2019 so it excludes those who are newly self-employed.

How do I apply?

HMRC have started contacting those who are eligible for the scheme. You can also go online and check your eligibility.

You will then need to fill in an online form, at which point the grant will be paid directly into your bank account.

Additional Information

You can find further information on the government website.

In addition, the minimum income floor for the self-employed has been suspended. This means self-employed people can now access, in full, Universal Credit at a rate equivalent to Statutory Sick Pay for employees.


Small Business Bounce Back Loan Scheme

What is it?

Access to loans of up to 25% of the turnover of the business up to a maximum of £50,000. The loans will be 100% backed by the government and interest free for 12 months. After 12 months the interest rate will be fixed at 2.5%.

Who is it for?

The loan scheme is open to any size business though it has been aimed at small businesses and sole traders. The business must not have been an ‘undertaking in difficulty’ as of 31st December 2019.

How do I apply?

The loans will be administered through the banks via a simple, standard form with no complex lending criteria and should be processed within days. Loan terms will be up to 6 years.

Additional Information

If you have already obtained a coronavirus business interruption loan of £50,000 or less, you can convert it to a bounce back loan.


Business Interruption Loan Scheme

What is it?

Access to loans, overdrafts, invoice finance and asset finance of up to £5 million and for up to 6 years. Interest and fees will be free for the first 12 months.

Who is it for?

All businesses with a turnover of less than £45 million per year. You must also generate more than 50% of your turnover through trading activity.

How do I apply?

There are 40 accredited lenders who can offer the scheme listed on the British Business Bank website.

Additional Information

The government will provide a guarantee of 80% on any loan. Remember that this will need to be paid back and you are liable for paying off the balance of the loan.

Loans of under £250,000 will not require a personal guarantee (and lenders are banned from asking for one). You also do not need to be disqualified from commercial lending in order to qualify.

Here is further information on the Business Interruption Loan Scheme.


Business Rates Holiday

What is it?

100% retail relief for 2020/21 which means eligible businesses will pay no business rates for a year, including all premises, regardless of their rateable value.

Who is it for?

Retail, hospitality and leisure businesses such as:

  • shops, restaurants, cafes, drinking establishments, cinemas and live music venues.
  • hotels, guest and boarding premises and self-catering accommodation.

How do I apply?

There is nothing you need to do. Local authorities are working hard to re-bill all eligible businesses to show this 100% discount as soon as possible.


Job Retention Bonus Scheme

What is it?

One-off payment of £1,000 paid to employers for every employee who remains continuously employed from November 2020 to the end of January 2021.

Who is it for?

It is available to all employers. Employees must earn above the Lower Earnings Limit (£520 per month) on average between November and the end of January 2021.

How do I apply?

Payments will be made from February 2021. Further detail about the scheme will be announced by the end of July.


Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme

What is it?

HMRC will pay 80% of employees’ salaries who would otherwise have been laid off, up to a maximum of £2,500 per month.

Until 30th June furloughed workers cannot do any work for the company while on furlough. From 1st July employees may work part time with the employer still able to claim for any days the employee is furloughed.

Employers will have to make additional contributions from the following dates as follows:

  • 1st August: Employer pays pension and National Insurance contributions.
  • 1st September: Employer pays 10% of wages. Government pays 70%.
  • 1st October: Employer pays 20% of wages. Government pays 60%.

The scheme will end on 31st October and the cut off point for new employees joining the scheme is 10th June.

Who is it for?

All businesses with employees on their payroll.

How do I apply?

You will have to submit the following information to HMRC through a new online portal which is now live:

  • Your name and phone number
  • Your bank account number and sort code
  • Your Self-Assessment UTR (Unique Tax Reference), Company UTR or CRN (Company Registration Number).
  • The name, employee number and National Insurance number for each of your furloughed employees.
  • The total amount being claimed for all employees and the total furlough period.

If you use an agent who is authorised to act for you for PAYE purposes, they will be able to make a claim on your behalf, so please speak to them now.

Follow the link below to make a claim.

Make a claim on the government website.

Additional Information

Employees must have been on your PAYE payroll system on or before 19th March 2020 to qualify.

You will need to designate affected employees as ‘furloughed workers,’ and notify your employees of this change.

Further details are available on the .Gov website.


VAT Deferral

What is it?

VAT payments will be deferred for 3 months, from 20th March to 30th June 2020.

Who is it for?

All businesses.

How do I apply?

This is done automatically so you don’t need to do anything. Customers who normally pay by direct debit should cancel their direct debit with their bank if they are unable to pay.

Additional Information

Taxpayers will be given until the end of the 2020 to 2021 tax year to pay any liabilities that have accumulated during the deferral period. VAT refunds and reclaims will be paid by the government as normal.


Income Tax Deferral

What is it?

Self-assessment tax payments have been deferred until 31st January 2021.

Who is it for?

Anyone who is self-employed.

How do I apply?

This is done automatically so you don’t need to do anything. No penalties or interest for late payment will be charged if you defer payment until January 2021.


Statutory Sick Pay (SSP)

What is it?

A refund to cover 2 weeks’ SSP per employee for absence due to Coronavirus.

Who is it for?

Employers with fewer than 250 employees as of 28th February 2020 and must have a PAYE payroll scheme that was created and started on or before 28 February 2020.

The scheme covers all types of employment contracts, including:

  • full-time employees
  • part-time employees
  • employees on agency contracts
  • employees on flexible or zero-hour contracts
  • fixed term contracts.

How do I apply?

The government online gateway is now open to reclaim SSP. You can find the full guidance and the online portal to make a claim on the .GOV website.

You will need to have a record of any absences due to Coronavirus including:

  • the reason why an employee could not work
  • details of each period when an employee could not work, including start and end dates
  • details of the SSP qualifying days when an employee could not work
  • National Insurance numbers of all employees who you have paid SSP to

You’ll have to keep these records for at least 3 years following your claim.

Employees do not need to supply a doctor’s fit note in order to claim.


Time to Pay Service

What is it?

If you are in financial distress and have outstanding tax liabilities you can receive support through the HMRC Time to Pay service. Any agreements are made on a case by case basis depending on your individual circumstances.

Who is it for?

All businesses and self-employed people who have outstanding tax liabilities.

How do I apply?

Call HMRC on their dedicated helpline – 0800 0159 559.


Eviction Protection

What is it?

Commercial tenants who cannot pay their rent because of COVID-19 will be protected from eviction. These measures will mean no business will automatically forfeit their lease and be forced out of their premises if they miss a payment up until 30 June.

Who is it for?

All commercial tenants.

Additional information

This is not a rental holiday. All commercial tenants will still be liable for the rent. Commercial tenants are protected from eviction if they are unable to pay rent.


Corporate Financing Facility

What is it?

The Bank of England will buy short-term debt from larger companies. This will support companies which are fundamentally strong, but have been affected by a short-term funding squeeze. It will also support corporate finance markets overall and ease the supply of credit to all firms.

It will operate for at least 12 months, and for as long as steps are needed to relieve cash flow pressures on firms that make a material contribution to the UK economy.

Who is it for?

Companies and their finance subsidiaries that make a material contribution to the UK economy.

More information on eligibility can be found on the Bank of England Website.

How do I apply?

In order to access the CCFF, you will need to contact your bank. It is important to note that not all banks issue commercial paper. If your bank does not issue commercial paper, UK Finance will provide a list of banks that are able to assist.


Facebook Small Business Grants

What is it?

Businesses experiencing disruptions resulting from the global outbreak of COVID-19 may be able to apply to Facebook for support. Facebook is offering US$100 million (approximately £84 million) in cash grants and advertising credits on its ad platform for up to 30,000 eligible small businesses.

The funding is intended to help businesses in the following ways:

  • covering operational costs
  • helping with rent costs
  • connecting with more customers
  • maintaining a strong workforce

Who is it for?

Small businesses, though additional criteria will be announced in the near future.

How do I apply?

Applications are not yet open though Facebook says it will share more information in the coming weeks. You can find out more and register your interest in receiving updates here.

Join Our Newsletter

The situation with the coronavirus outbreak is changing fast. We will be keeping this page updated but if you would like to receive further information, news and advice as we receive it please sign up to our emails below.

Previous Emails

We have already sent out a number of updates to inform small businesses of the latest news and updates. You can view our previous editions by following the links below:

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Additional Support & Information

As well as the government announced support there are also various local initiatives that you may find useful. We have listed below a number of useful resources to help you and your business get through this difficult time. In addition to this there may be ways that your business can help the national effort so we have also listed opportunities to switch production to manufacture vital products.

Remote Working Advice & Toolkit

What is it?

Cosmic, a Devon – based social enterprise specialising in all things digital has launched its Business Continuity Helpline to share their knowledge and expertise with organisations in the region.

The helpline and an associated toolkit will provide advice and support on home working and managing a business during periods of disruption. The helpline is designed to support small businesses, charities and local organisations in the south west – helping them to prepare for the impacts of coronavirus (Covid-19).

How do I apply?

The number for the helpline is 0330 088 4421.

You can find further information as well as access to their remote working toolkit on the Cosmic website.

Cosmic’s team are all working remotely so will do their best to answer the phone. If you struggle to get through, please still look at the toolkit and the other sources they have made available on their website.


Secure Home Working Advice

Based in the Exeter Science Park, Securious have written a blog to secure home working for your staff through the Coronavirus pandemic.

Many companies are now actively encouraging their employees to work from home due to issues surrounding the spread of the virus. Larger organisations often already have the infrastructure and working practices in place to accommodate large scale home working by employees.

The problem many smaller organisations will have if they face the prospect of offices being closed (particularly if they rent office space in a multi-tenanted building) is that they have never had the requirement to enable home working en masse for staff, which may lead to significant issues with cyber security.

The article will cover some of the issues as well as potential solutions that organisations can implement to ensure their work-force can continue to be productive and secure when working remotely.

Read the full article on the Securious website.


Ventilator Production

The Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy is looking for organisations who can support in the supply of ventilators and ventilator components across the United Kingdom as part of the Government’s response to COVID-19.

If you have the capacity to help with the supply of addition ventilators there is a form you can complete to register your business.

How do I help?

You can register your details on the government website which will ask you to complete:

  • Basic details and contact
  • Supply chain experience
  • Business capabilities

To register please visit the government website.

Details of the specification of rapidly manufactured ventilator systems needed as part of the response to coronavirus (COVID-19) can be found here.


    Sylvia Adams Charitable Trust Grants

    What is it?

    One-off grants of £5,000 for small charities that support disadvantaged children aged 0-3 and that are affected by Coronavirus in a loss of income or an ability to deliver services.

    Who is it for?

    • Charities registered with the Charity Commission for England and Wales whose last audited accounts show an income of less than £750,000.
    • Charities that can demonstrate the likelihood of increased demand for their services and/or can demonstrate a loss of anticipated income attributable to the current pandemic.

    How do I apply?

    For further information about the grants, please visit the Sylvia Adams website.


    TechForce 19 Challenge

    What is it?

    The TechForce19 Challenge has been launched to provide funding for innovators who can find digital ways of supporting vulnerable people during the Coronavirus outbreak.

    Companies will receive funding of up to £25,000 to develop or test their COVID-19 solution.

    Who is it for?

    Innovators and technology companies from across the UK may apply. Successful applicants will be selected based on solution feasibility, company credibility, impact and digital maturity.

    How do I apply?

    You can find out more information  about the funding and submit an application on the TechForce 19 website.


    DCC Prompt Action Fund

    What is it?

    Devon County Council has launched the COVID-19 Prompt Action Fund to provide flexible resources to organisations working with communities who are disproportionately impacted by coronavirus and the social and economic consequences of this outbreak. All applications that are under £500 are invited to apply.

    Who is it for?

    Constituted and not-for-private-profit Voluntary, Community and Social Enterprise (VCSE) sector groups and organisations, Town and Parish Councils, charities or businesses, or a combination of such groups working together.

    Non-constituted groups without their own, separate bank account, small local businesses and individuals may apply but they will need to do so with the support of an accountable constituted organisation acting on their behalf either as guarantor or as the holder of the funding.

    How do I apply?

    You will need to submit an application through the Devon County Council website.

    You can find further information about the fund here.